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Lewiston Town Board discusses police commissioner issue

by jmaloni
Fri, Mar 2nd 2012 07:05 pm

by Terry Duffy

Issues ranging from a police commissioner with the village to Sanborn improvements were among discussion items heard at Monday's brief but active Lewiston Town Board regular meeting.

Town Councilman Mike Marra, noting the presence of Village of Lewiston trustees Vic Eydt and Bruce Sutherland at the session, proposed the board have a town-village joint meeting, open to the public, to address questions of the Lewiston Police contract. It follows from last week's Village of Lewiston Trustees session where questions arose over the continued role of Al Soluri as a Lewiston Police commissioner.

To be held at Monday, March 26, at 4 p.m., in Town Hall, the meeting's purpose would be "To initiate a dialogue to clarify each municipalities' role with regards to the Lewiston Police Department contact and other issues," said Marra.

The vote to schedule the session was approved unanimously by members with Councilman Al Bax absent. Supervisor Steve Reiter said he welcomed the move to discuss the police issue with the village.

So did Town Councilman Ernie Palmer, who said he felt the police matter was overdue to be addressed. Offering lengthy remarks, Palmer, a former captain, homicide detective and police officer who served for years with the Niagara Falls Police Department, said he that felt times have changed and so should the village-town arrangement over commissioners.

"This has been a convoluted process since 1995, with an original agreement and a follow-up agreement," said Palmer. "A couple of years later there were some handshake deals I feel never made it to print, where the deal has changed throughout the years. There was documentation that there have been changes in the relationship between the village and the town."

Continuing, Palmer said, "I feel personally the commission was a good bridge when the police departments were merged and brought together, in order to make sure the village and town's interests were represented. But perhaps we have reached a point where the commission is no longer necessary or is detrimental to the good order of the town and village police department.

"I think there is another way to do it. That's why I'm hoping we have this meeting so we can work all of this out. We should do this at a public meeting and let them have their say."

Other news that night involved continuing discussion on the future of Sanborn. Reiter, Councilman Ron Winkley and Marra were upbeat on a master plan revision for the hamlet, presented Feb. 22 by Wendel Duchscherer Engineers and Associates. A work in progress, among the ideas presented were more traditional neighborhood settings in Sanborn, greater attention paid to zoning and business placement, and traffic issues.

"I felt the residents of Sanborn had some very unique, interesting comments," said Reiter. "It was eye opening, especially for Wendel. We're going to be doing a traditional neighborhood setup there. I thought it went very well."

Marra agreed, commenting that residents who attended on the snowy evening had a chance to express their views. "The meeting was informative and the most stark example of why the 10-year-old master plan needed to be replaced." Marra said that prior to last April there were areas in the hamlet where a big box retailer could open a store without a review. The new update requires that among other things site plan and property reviews would need to be conducted. "It was just one of the examples of why this was so important," said Marra of the update.

Another was traffic safety, Marra said, noting that residents voiced concerns over increased volume on Sanders Settlement Road in the hamlet.

Marra suggested the state Department of Transportation conduct a speed study and traffic study of the Route 31 area between West Street and Townline Road.

"I think that stretch is one of the most busy roadways in the area during rush hour," commented Palmer, noting the increased flow of traffic associated with Niagara County Community College.

The board went on to formally approve a resolution requesting the DOT study.

In other news from the session:

•Resident Mike Dombrowski approached the board regarding the continuing drainage problems in the Riverwalk Drive subdivision and asked when the town was going to do something about it. "We having water coming right up to property lines, some over property lines," said Dombrowski.

He stated that property owners not even in the flood plain area were having problems. "We're at high elevation but still encountering flooding." The resident went on to say some areas of the neighborhood had significant mosquito problems. Reiter told the resident he would get back "by next month" with an answer.

•Resident Paulette Glasgow had questions with regards to her Time Warner bill, suggesting that changes to the town's franchise agreement were made without a town public hearing on the issue. Glasgow said her latest bill showed a new higher franchise fee and she wanted answers.

When asked of it by Reiter, Town Attorney Mike Dowd said that if the franchise fee mentioned was higher it would still be under the existing contract and that the town has not taken any action on a new agreement. "It's nothing reflective of what the board did," he said. "When we do move the contract, we will have a public hearing."

•Reiter closed by reporting that the town would consider new billing procedures for electricity, with news that National Grid has opted out of handling town billing covering reduced electricity allotments to the town per the New York Power Authority agreement. The board is expected to hear from an ISO billing representative at its March 12 work session and prior to its March 26 regular meeting at 5:30 p.m.

Also at the March 26 session, the board is expected to have a presentation at 5:45 p.m. from the Joseph Davis Park Local Development Corp. regarding upcoming plans and improvements at the park.

All March 26 sessions are open to the public.

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